LEADING INTERNATIONAL MARITIME MAGAZINE

PortGen workshops teach small businesses how to do business with the port

The Port of Seattle has long been a supporter of small business growth and workforce development and has made contracting with small businesses firms, including disadvantaged, minority and women-owned businesses a priority.

The PortGen workshop was created in 2016 to support these goals and provide resources for small businesses who wanted to do business with the Port. “At the time there were no local incubator type facilities, no business accelerator (for small and disadvantaged businesses),” said Tina Boyd, Small and Disadvantaged Business Coordinator at the Port of Seattle.

PortGen workshops typically occur every other month at different locations and attendees learn about a variety of Port projects. Topics include construction and consulting, goods and services and dining and retail.

“We draw from projects where we have most small business opportunities,” she said. “Firms really appreciate it because it really helps them learn to build relationships with the Port.”

Participants learn about what a successful Request for Proposal (RFP) looks like, how to find business opportunities at the Port, and hear from guest speakers who work in different areas of the Port. They also learn about business certifications, risk management and airport badging requirements.

Ms Boyd said the workshops attract established businesses looking to contract with the Port, as well as others who have dreams of starting a business and are looking at where to start.

Gloria Rosario, the owner of Ideal Commercial Uniforms in Port Orchard, has attended the PortGen workshops in the past. “The more you know about the processes of the Port, the more you know what the Port needs, or what your business can offer to the Port,” Ms Rosario said. “I would highly recommend that other businesses take time out of their day to attend the PortGen sessions. They are held at different locations, so vendors can learn about opportunities available in other areas, not just the airport setting. It's also a great way to meet other vendors, share information and develop relationships.”

Ms Boyd said she hopes businesses who attend the workshop come away with an understanding or awareness of whether they are ready to compete for a contract with the Port.

“(The workshop) educates you on everything it takes to work with the Port. Participants learn whether they are ready to compete in this arena. They may have to step back and look at finances; it may be more difficult and expensive to get into the airport than other venues,” she said.

Ms Boyd said the opportunity for participants to build relationships with project managers who participate in the PortGen workshops is an important connection. Participants will often list the workshop on their Port bid.

“Port staff sees the workshop as a benefit,” she said. Participants see meeting the project managers as a major draw for the workshop.

“Getting decision makers involved and asking questions before the bids are posted is what is really beneficial to them; bidding is costly for a small business.”